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Head and neck cancer stages

Making an educated treatment decision begins with the stage, or progression, of the disease. The stage of head and neck cancer is one of the most important factors in evaluating treatment options.

Our cancer doctors use a variety of diagnostic tests to evaluate head and neck cancer and develop an individualized treatment plan. If you have been recently diagnosed, we will review your pathology to confirm you have received the correct diagnosis and staging information, and develop a personalized treatment plan. If you have a recurrence, we will perform comprehensive testing and identify a treatment approach that is suited to your needs.

Cancer staging is the process used to determine how much a cancer has spread.

Head and neck cancer stages are based on the results of physical exams, endoscopies, biopsies and any imaging tests (CT scan, MRI, chest X-ray and/or PET scans).

Video: Cancer Staging

Cancer Staging

Stage IV head and neck cancer

Stage IVA: One of the following applies –

  • T4a, N0 or N1, M0: the head and neck cancer tumor is any size and is growing into nearby structures. Cancer cells may not be present in the lymph nodes, or they may have spread to one lymph node, which is located on the same side of the head or neck as the primary tumor and is smaller than 3 cm across. Cancer has not spread to distant sites.

or

  • T1–4a, N2, M0: the tumor is any size and may or may not have invaded nearby structures, it has not spread to distant sites, and one of the following is true:
    • cancer cells are present in one lymph node, located on the same side of the head or neck as the primary tumor and measuring 3–6 cm across (N2a)
    • cancer cells are present in one lymph node on the opposite side of the head or neck and measuring less than 6 cm across (N2b)
    • cancer cells are present in 2 or more lymph nodes, all smaller than 6 cm across and located on either side of the head or neck (N2c)

Stage IVB: One of the following applies –

  • T4b, any N, M0: the tumor has invaded deeper areas and/or tissues. It may or may not have spread to lymph nodes and has not spread to distant sites.

or

  • Any T, N3, M0: the tumor is any size and may or may not have grown into other structures. It has spread to one or more lymph nodes larger than 6 cm across, but has not spread to distant sites.

Stage IVC:

  • Any T, Any N, M1: The head and neck cancer tumor is any size and may or may not have spread to lymph nodes. Cancer cells have spread to distant sites.

We're here to guide you through the cancer journey

We understand you may be feeling overwhelmed with questions and concerns about your type of cancer and what it all means. We're here to help guide you through the process.

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Our team of cancer experts uses advanced, minimally invasive diagnostic technology to detect cancerous cells anywhere in the body.

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